What Causes Road Rage and the Anger Behind It?

Why are people so angry in Australia? The nation has a low unemployment rate and a thriving economy. The middle-class is strong, and their healthcare is more affordable than in most civilized countries of the world. So, what’s with people’s attitudes? This article will hopefully increase awareness and help avoid accidents that would require a tow truck in Perth. These are national statistics and some personal experiences thrown in from around the country.

You wouldn’t realise how angry people are until you get behind the wheel and see their road rage for yourself. And according to statistics, the road rage is only getting worse on the roads of Australia each year.

Road rage comes in many forms. In most cases, you’ll see driver’s giving you the middle finger, honking angrily, or doing something far worse. You’ll see this kind of behaviour in many cities and towns in Australia.

After a recent study was done about road rage in Australia, approximately 88% of the 4,000 Australian respondents had claimed they were a victim of someone else’s road rage. It also found that 95% of Brisbane drivers have been the victims of road rage, which means Brisbane is the state with the angriest drivers on the road.

Here are some more statistics you might find interesting:

  • 90% of drivers in Perth and Adelaide experienced road rage.
  • 87% of drivers in Melbourne experienced road rage.
  • 84% of drivers in Sydney experienced road rage.
  • 5% of all drivers had rude gestures made to them.
  • 4% of all drivers were tailgated by enraged drivers.
  • 3% of all drivers experienced verbal abuse from enraged drivers.
  • 4% of all drivers claimed that an enraged driver actually followed them from behind in their vehicle. Women experienced this more than men.
  • 1% of all drivers were forced to the side of the road because of a road rage situation.
  • 9% of all drivers claim enraged drivers were responsible for damaging their vehicles.
  • 2% of all drivers claim to experience physical assault from an enraged driver.

These are pretty scary statistics, aren’t they? Some drivers may experience road rage once in a while, but there are a small group of drivers who experience it more frequently. How come the traffic police don’t do more to stop this? It must be that their attention is focused on speed-related traffic deaths.

The Main Causes of Road Rage in Australia

Victoria has a Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee that established three categories for road rage. They are as follows:

1) Road Violence – Impulsive acts of violence toward strangers that are committed by other drivers. Strangers feeling targeted for violence by other drivers would also fall under this category.

2) Road Hostility – Impulsively hostile acts toward strangers by other drivers. No violence is involved here. Strangers who feel like they’re the target of hostile acts by other drivers would also fall under this category. A hostile act would be something like an obscene gesture or an act of verbal abuse. Violence and hostility are different because the former is more serious than the latter.

3) Selfish Driving – These are the drivers who want to pass everybody else on the road no matter what. They are impatient drivers who’ll honk if you don’t go fast enough and pass other cars by switching lanes repeatedly. No specific drivers are targeted in these cases. Selfish drivers simply want to own the road, and they may become hostile or violent if they cannot get their way.

How come people don’t get this upset if you walk too fast or too slow? Perhaps it is the stress of driving a motor vehicle that causes anger behind the wheel. Drivers have to be careful of not hitting anyone or anything with their vehicles. Sometimes this is difficult if there are a lot of people driving or walking around on the streets, especially in cities. The stress will cause them to become enraged with anger at the smallest annoyance on the road.

According to a DCPC report, the two biggest triggers that lead to road violence are getting stuck behind someone who is driving slowly and being tailgated by another driver.

Here is an example of a likely scenario:

Let’s say Driver One is driving in the right lane and gets close up behind Driver Two. Driver One waits for Driver Two to get in the left lane, but this never happens.

Is Driver Two wrong? Technically yes, but it is not illegal to stay in the right lane unless the speed limit of the road is over 90 kilometres per hour. Driver One is going to be furious because Driver Two is driving too slowly in the right lane.  Driver Two notices Driver One and taps the brake pedal to signal to them as a warning. Driver One continues to stay close behind Driver Two, which makes Driver Two angry now.

From this point forward, the actions of each driver determine how much road rage is present. A responsible driver will understand the basic rules of the road and correct their mistake. In this case, Driver One should merge left or slow down and let Driver Two get far ahead of them. At least it would reduce the tensions on the road and prevent a road rage incident.

Sadly, enraged drivers don’t always think rationally. If the incident takes place at night time, Driver One might feel tempted to flash their high beams at Driver Two. If that doesn’t cause Driver Two to move left, then Driver One will try to pass them on the left.

Once their two cars are parallel with each other, their eye contact with each other may provoke further road rage. After Driver One passes by, Driver Two may feel compelled to tailgate Driver One in order to get “revenge.” Now both drivers are furious and enraged at one another.

The scenario may escalate into something much worse if one of the drivers doesn’t pull away or get close to their destination. All drivers go through something like this because we’re only human. But the important thing is to not seek revenge after the other driver passes you by and leaves the scene. Just let it go from that point forward.

Unfortunately, people do not always think this rationally about things. Anger is a very powerful emotion, and it can be hard to restrict it, especially during a stressful situation behind the wheel of a vehicle. Approximately four factors usually contribute to someone’s road rage. They are as follows:

1) The Person – Someone’s personality, alcohol usage, age, and drug usage all play a role in their anger levels.

2) The Situation – The amount of congestion and noise on the road will cause drivers to be more aggressive.

3) The Car – You cannot communicate with other drivers in their cars. Everyone is anonymous, and their freedom is merely an illusion because other cars truly limit that freedom.

4) The Culture – Someone’s culture may influence whether they want to commit acts of violence or hostility.

Most cases of road violence are the result of specific incidents which occurred prior to the initial act of violence. For example, Driver A honking at Driver B is one incident that could lead to violence because Driver A is stuck behind Driver B. Tailgating and changing lanes without signalling are also incidents that lead to road violence.

In the end, the person who elects to commit violence is responsible for their actions. It doesn’t matter what triggers lead up to the incident. Therefore, if the driver in front of you is driving too slowly and won’t move over, then your reaction to the situation is all on you. If you choose to become violent or hostile, then you cannot blame the other driver for why you became violent or hostile. The police will not care.

My Experience

I experienced the worst road violence of my life about two years ago, just outside of Brisbane. I was coming home from work and found myself on a two-lane road in the left lane at midnight. As I remained idle at a red light, I remembered that I needed to go to the fuel station and get some milk.

At that moment, a second vehicle came into the right lane and pulled up next to me. When the light turned green, I accelerated quickly in order to get ahead of the vehicle. I left about 4 car lengths behind me from the other car and then merged into the right lane. This was the lane where the turnoff was located, so I had to get right without being blocked by the other driver.

Unfortunately, the other driver did not like what I did. They went into the left lane and threw a beer can aggressively at my car door as they passed by me. This somewhat startled me, but I didn’t think anything more about it. I soon arrived at the fuel station and got out of my car. I checked for damage to my car door, but I did not see any. So, I went inside the fuel station to purchase the milk. When I come out of the fuel station, I see the other driver from before waiting in their car. He gave me the evil eye and wouldn’t stop staring at me. I quickly got in my car with the milk and drove out of there. The other driver pulled away and followed me as I left.

For the next 30 minutes, the driver continued to follow my car. I stepped on the accelerator pedal to go faster and left him far behind. The other driver attempted to catch up to me, but his vehicle was no match for my turbocharged engine. We were both clearly going faster than the posted speed limit, but I didn’t really care at the time. I just wanted this guy away from me.

It ended up being a big mistake because the other driver eventually lost control of their speeding vehicle and hit the side of a tree. The sound of the crash was loud enough for me to hear too. At that moment, I immediately regretted my choice to go faster. I didn’t know whether I should go back and check on the other driver to see if they were okay.

In an effort to do the right thing, I turned around and went back to check on the driver. They managed to wrap their car around a tree. Fortunately, most of the damage occurred at the rear of the vehicle. The driver and the other passenger managed to escape the incident with only a few bruises. They were more shocked and startled than anything else. When I asked whether they were alright, their response was “F##K You, A@@hole. Get lost.” I complied with their wishes and left.

When I reflect back on this incident, I realise now that I should have just let the other driver pass me on the right. Then as I slow down my vehicle, I would simply merge right and get behind them. Since my turn off was coming up soon on the right anyway, there was no point in me passing the driver so quickly. This action would have prevented the accident that happened to them. Instead, I wanted to save myself about 5 extra seconds of time by passing them in their lane. It wasn’t worth it.

Now when I drive on the road, I try to remember that accident whenever I feel like taking action based on feelings of anger and road rage. It is a reminder of what can happen if I let my anger get out of control. All I need to do is take a couple of deep breaths and let myself relax and calm down.

Do you want to learn how to calm yourself down when you’re feeling road rage? You’ll know when you have this feeling because your heart will beat quickly, and the adrenaline and anger will rush through your system. Below are 7 tips which can help you deal with these feelings so that you don’t make the wrong driving decisions on the road.

1) If another vehicle speeds up behind your vehicle and does not pass you, then don’t wait for them to make the right decision. Take it upon yourself to move into the other lane and let them pass you. There is no sense in getting stressed out over a tailgate situation, so put an end to it.

2) If you make a driving mistake that could potentially cause someone else to experience road rage, then try to make a waving gesture outside the window to indicate that you are sorry. If you can pull up next to them and verbally say you’re sorry, that is good too.

3) Understand the traffic laws of your location, especially when it comes to passing someone in the left lane on large highways and other multi-lane roads. The more you understand how to drive correctly, the less chance you’ll have of making a mistake that causes road rage.

4) If someone does something wrong in traffic or makes you upset for whatever reason, do not try to follow them out of anger. That will only lead to someone bad. Just continue on with your day and ignore them.

5) Learn to give way to other drivers, especially if they’re indicating they want you to do so. If there is a lot of traffic on the road and another vehicle wants to merge in front of you in your lane, then just give them the space to do it. There is no sense in trying to stop them by not slowing down. You can spend an extra two seconds of your day to be courteous to that driver and let them in. Otherwise, you’ll continue to feel the tension and an accelerated heart rate as they try to pass in front of you.

6) If another driver is mad at you for some irrational reason, then don’t try to influence their behaviour either way. Avoid using any negative hand gestures or making any verbal comments that’ll upset them further. Just let them go about their business.

7) Road rage is never a good thing. You might want to feel like the winner of the road, but nothing good ever comes from road rage. If you try to get revenge or act like a fool on the road, then it’ll only upset the other driver and cause further problems. So, always look for a way to avoid road rage.

The Legal Rules of Road Rage

It is not against the law to be an enraged driver unless the following apply:

1) The driver is a “menacing driver,” which means they express the intent to menace another driver or the possibility that they might menace them.

2)  The driver is a “predatory driver,” which means their conduct behind the wheel is threatening to another driver or expresses the intent to actually cause physical harm to another driver. Menacing driving can get you between 12 to 18 months in prison, while predatory driving can get you up to 5 years in prison.


Australian police don’t seem to do enough to stop road rage. So many of these incidents are not stopped before something awful happens. That is why you cannot wait for the police to intervene in your road rage situation. Take it upon yourself to be the better person and avoid getting angry and staying away from other drivers who seem angry. That is the best way to keep everyone safe.